Brian Birdnow

Last week, in the august pages of Human Events, Patrick J. Buchanan, the conservative titan, offered a spirited defense of Vladimir Putin and his escalation of the current Ukrainian-Crimean troubles into the most perilous East-West faceoff since long before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. Buchanan notes that Putin has met the test of democratic formalism in the sense that his provocations are widely cheered in Russia and that a highly improbable 95% of the Crimean electorate voted in favor of a sort of Anschluss, reuniting them with Mother Russia. Mr. Buchanan actually goes beyond this benchmark by arguing that Putin is a nationalist who has been forced into aggressive behavior by repeated American threats, broken promises, and encroachments into the Russian sphere of influence. According to Pat, these twenty years of American muscle-flexing began during the Clinton Administration, peaked during the neoconservative ascendancy of the second Bush Administration, and continues even until today. PJB seems to argue that Putin’s response is a just and moderate response to American brinksmanship, and that we would do no differently if the situation were reversed.

Many, if not most conservatives feel a sense of regret when it comes to speaking ill of Patrick J. Buchanan. Pat was a true conservative stalwart of the old-school type, a conservative before conservatism was cool. He never pulled his punches and never shied away from a fight. Buchanan wrote fiery editorials for the old St. Louis Globe-Democrat, worked in the Nixon Administration, went back to journalism, directed communications during the second Reagan Administration, and built a conservative media-publishing empire after 1989. The fall of the Soviet Union and the rising threat of Islamic terrorism in the early 1990s, however, exposed certain fault lines, hitherto not noticed in American conservatism , and PJB found himself in a highly publicized battle with the neoconservatives in the 90s and on into the George W. Bush Administration. This overheated spat brought credit to no one, though it ruined friendships and damaged reputations. Since the early 2000s Buchanan has emerged as an eloquent critic of the Bush Doctrine, the War on Terror, and free trade while remaining in the conservative camp on most of the cultural issues.


Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.